Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Knitting Knews

I've finished two sets of hat/mitten/booties for a friend who's having twins in a few months. Pardon the cuteness...

Here's a close-up of the green set:

If anyone needs a recommendation for a fun (and quick and easy) project, this is a great pattern. There seemed to be plenty others like it - it's just a question of how much embellishment you want on the various pieces. Basically, they promise to use less than a skein of yarn. Both sets together took me about 10 hours of knitting time. That's only 5 movies. Or 10 Doctor Who's, interspersed with some Top Gear. It's WAY less than a season of Lost.
I've also (finally) started on the sweater that I bought wool and a pattern for when we were in Rhode Island this summer. I bought it all at Bella Yarns in Warren. In August's 90 degree heat, what I did I want? A wool sweater, bitches. 
Ok, I'd been meaning to knit myself a sweater for ages, especially after finishing the two baby sweaters. Full disclosure: I made a sweater for myself in college, but I didn't follow a pattern. I sort of made it up as I went along and it ended up weirdly baggy with arms that were different lengths. HOT. I'm trying to avoid that with this one, although I can always take it to a tailor and have it taken in if it has funny bulges. The pattern calls for having a zipper sewn in, which I'm definitely going to pay someone to do. I am NOT going to spend months and months knitting a sweater (with fairly expensive and v. nice wool) to then mess up the zipper.
Something tells me it's going to take me more than 10 hours, since I've been knitting for 8 or 9 already and I only have about 8 inches of the back panel done. 
The leap from baby booties that take an hour (including sewing in all the ends and casting on) to a normal-person sized sweater has been somewhat harsh. I'm just hoping it fits when I'm done. I swatched a gauge and I was ok horizontally but a little long vertically. I guess the worst that will happen is that the whole thing will be a little longer than I was expecting. Actually, since the most of the sizing in the pattern is done in inches rather than rows, it shouldn't present all that much of a problem.
I finished reading the newest Alexander McCall Smith, La's Orchestra Saves The World. Santa brought me a signed copy. Woot! It was very McCall Smith-y and I liked it. It takes place in rural Suffolk during World War II. The village itself isn't mentioned but it's not far from Bury (which is mentioned) and there's an RAF base nearby. My favorite quote from the book takes place as La stops by the side of a country lane while riding her bicycle, and lies down on the grass to ponder.
The strange, unsettling feeling was still with her; curiously, it made her aware of just how much she loved the piece of earth upon which she lay, that particular grass, that particular tiny patch of Suffolk.
It's too cold for me to go lie down in the grass on our particular tiny patch of Suffolk, but I would if I could.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Boats in Bottles

We had a glorious stretch of not really doing anything from Christmas eve through Sunday. Some assorted bell ringing, yummy Christmas lunch with the inlaws (including an extended trains-round-the-living-room session), and some lazy lunches with various friends who we haven't seen in a while.

I was at work today, and am now off again until 2009 arrives with a jolt on January 2. The Brits miss out on all sort of fun American holidays (President's Day, people!), and the prospect of 13 weeks unbroken by bank holidays of any kind can be a little scary. Granted, we get quite a bit more vacation time than the average American, but vacation time comes with the added joy of knowing that everyone else will have been filling your email inbox with 'ToDos' while you were off sunning yourself by the pool. As opposed to national holidays, where EVERYONE is sunning themselves. Ok, maybe this doesn't apply to President's Day, but you get the idea.

John and James were home today, and spent the day making one of James' Christmas presents from John's parents: a Boat in a Bottle kit. I got intermittent email updates today from the hubby (mast is in, water is in place), and one slightly panicked phone call (where is your sewing kit with the needles and straight pins?!).

The result:

I LOVE it. So cool. Cool enough for a second picture. John says, "11/10".

We saw these when we were at the Herreshoff Museum in Bristol, but didn't pick it up at the time. SO COOL!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday wishes

Most of you will probably have seen this, but here it is again. And yes, I'm aware that Christmas was two days ago.

In other news today, Happy Birthday Dad and John!!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Dr Who TrailerMaker

James found a gizmo where you can create your own Doctor Who trailers on the BBC Website:

Here's the trailer that James made - check it out!

I LOVE the BBC (almost as much as I love David Tennant). ::swoon::

Thursday, December 18, 2008

McCall-Smith Withdrawal

Every weekday, for the last...um...a long time, I've been getting the chapters from Alexander McCall Smith's Corduroy Mansions, as serialised in the Telegraph.

And then today, this message along with my chapter:

Alexander McCall Smith now takes a two-week break, but will post a Christmas message for his readers.
Corduroy Mansions will resume on Monday, January 5. Thanks for reading.

::breathing deeply into a paper bag::

Sunday, December 14, 2008

On the mend

Right, no posts lately because today is the first day in a week that going downstairs to have breakfast hasn't made me want to come back upstairs for a nap. My main contacts for the last week have been this lot (shown reading one of John's Linux mags):

I don't feel great, by any means, but I *think* (provided taking a shower and getting dressed doesn't wear me out) that I may actually leave the house today. I have a book to pick up at the library (and two to return). I imagine that's going to be it for my adventures, though.

Between my epic napping sessions, I've been doing some reading. I read Jasper Rees' chronicle of rediscovering his French horn, I Found My Horn, which was a little self-absorbed and very anorak-y but quite entertaining. I'm not sure how engaging it would be for a non-horn player, but I liked it. Definitely a library book, though, not one to buy and reread. I may even pick up my horn and give it a few toots.

I also finished The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton (who also wrote The House at Riverton). I really liked it - I thought the characters were very well-drawn and I loved the fairy tales that Morton weaves through the story. It was a little bit predictable, but I didn't find that it diminished the book at all.

To round out the fairy tales, I read my Tales of Beedle the Bard. Cute stories, witty commentary, glad that JKR is raising money for children, but overall: meh. Maybe in my brain I've come to terms with the fact that Harry Potter is 'finished', so this was sot of a miscellaneous extra that happened to be loosely affiliated with HP. Worth buying for the charitable aspect (and so I have the complete set), but probably not going to get reread.

I've now started on The Jewel In the Crown, which one of my friends loaned to me. My parents (and John) recognized it as a PBS/Granada miniseries from the 70s? 80s?, but I'm finding it really heavy going at the moment. It's gotten a little better, and I'm going to stick with it for a bit longer before I give up, mostly because ALL the reviews on the back (NYT, Telegraph, etc) praise its amazing wonderfulness.

To accompany all my reading, I've been listening to Kate Rusby's newest CD, Sweet Bells. We heard most of the tracks on the CD at the concert we went to in Norwich last December, and have been waiting (and waiting and waiting) for the CD to come out. I LOVE it. Someone on the interwebs commented that they could happily listen to KR sing the phone book, and I'd be right there listening with them, but this is the perfect Christmasy CD.

The 2 other CDs that I've ordered from Amazon for Christmas seem not to have shipped yet (the new John Tavener and a CD of the King's College Choir doing their Christmasy thing). I feel deep hatred for 'pop' Christmas stuff (I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus, etc), but the Rusby is sufficiently religious (and well-sung) as to be acceptable.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ring, walk, tree, ring, ring, ring

I did an extreme amount of bell ringing this weekend. I went up to Cotton for some practice on Saturday morning at 9:30 (early!), since we were ringing for a wedding today and the bells are somewhat unusual. The ringing 'chamber' is actually a porch - it's enclosed on 3 sides but the 4th side is open to the elements. Apparently it can be fairly exciting if it's raining! We were lucky - the weather was sunny both days, but SUPER cold.

Then, this morning, I rang at Stowmarket for the regular Sunday morning ringing. I had lunch and did some Christmas present wrapping for all the stuff that's being sent tomorrow, and then it was back to Cotton for the wedding. The bells aren't used all that much (especially not in the winter!), and I thought they had a sort of steel-drum-y sound. They're also 'odd-struck', which I think means that if you try to ring just by ropesight you'll end up in the wrong place.  Anyway, tower #2 for the day.

After a reviving cup of tea in Old Newton, it was off to Great Finborough for an attempt at what would have been my third quarter peal. We missed it though - someone didn't hear a call in the middle and we got in a sufficient muddle and had to stop. We ended up starting again and ringing some other stuff, since we didn't have time to restart the quarter attempt. There will be others!

The boys and I went on a walk yesterday afternoon, after (mercifully) managing to do 95% of our Christmas shopping in one hit. WOOHOO!

Here's James, standing in...you guessed it...Water Lane!
I loved this picture of them, walking along. James is getting so big - he's grown out of his wellies and was wearing mine (with thick socks).

When we got back, we put up the Christmas tree (i.e. unmashed the branches from last year), decorated it, and put up the various other decorations, all to the rousing accompaniment of Sesame Street Christmas. C'mon, you didn't expect anything else, did you?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Radio 4: "Today" advent calendar

I was minding my own business, driving to work this morning, when the chaps on the Today program mentioned that as it was December 1, they were starting in on their annual Advent Calendar. I don't know how I missed it last year, but it's hilarious!  Each day they're giving us one more nugget of mirth. I almost went off the road with the one this morning.